Print Media launches new business plan to stay afloat

By Jessica Connor

Reeling from years of rising costs and dwindling numbers, the S.C. Conference's Print Media Center is crafting a new business plan to help it stay afloat.

While 2011 numbers have not been finalized, the nonprofit Print Media Center has been operating at a deficit. It lost about $15,000 in 2010 and $54,000 in 2009.

As a nonprofit, the print shop isn t looking to make money on the operation, but Conference Treasurer Tony Prestipino said it doesn t want to be losing money, either. Yet thanks to paper not being in as much demand as in the past, and with its major job of the Conference Journal now fully accessible online, the print shop has been losing money steadily.

Success would be breaking even, Prestipino said.

The treasurer s office is taking the lead in the print shop restructuring with help from print shop employees Melanie Dotson and Rhonda Foupht.

They have crafted a multipronged business plan for the future of the Print Media Center, and they are pushing forward in the hopes that the new energy will drive the shop to success, one job at a time.

We re one of the few United Methodist print shops still open in the country, but not a lot of people know about us, Foupht said, noting that heightened marketing is a significant part of their new business plan.

In addition to spreading the word about their printing and design services, which they offer to all United Methodist churches across the state, the new business plan involves analyzing and finessing their prices so they are competitive with industry norms, becoming more efficient and cost affordable in production, improving their website to be more interactive so they can take quotes and do other work online, and generally ratcheting up customer service.

Right now, Foupht and Dotson said they are focusing on finalizing 2011 projects and wrapping up the details of their new plan. Then, beginning Jan. 1, they will be putting that plan into action.

We want everyone to know about us, Foupht said, pointing out that the Print Media Center is run by expert commercial graphics professionals and strives to be a cost-efficient service to churches. In a down market, the first thing to go is advertising and printing, but we really can do it cheaper. Our prices are comparably lower, and we re a nonprofit, so basically we just need to cover costs.

Dotson said they also offer more personalized, in-the-family service “ they know what UMCs need.

The outside world can be more money-oriented, but we know these churches have to operate within a budget that is based on tithes and offerings, so we can be more creative and help with their specific needs, Dotson said. Plus we have all the logos.

Longtime Print Media Director Pat Mack will be retiring at the end of the year, though she will be helping part-time with large conference jobs, like the journal. (See related story, this page.)

Prestipino said the Print Media Center will need to work quickly to see success, as the conference cannot afford to keep a diminishing business afloat.

From a dollars perspective, it s a little scary, he said.

But Foupht and Dotson are stepping up to the challenge. In addition to the Conference Journal, Annual Conference materials and other conference center printing needs, the print shop does a variety of print jobs for local churches and ministries “ everything from brochures and business cards to lamination and mailings. They feel they can effectively crunch their numbers, market their plan and break even, and they are doing all they can to make that happen in time.

It s a 50-50 chance, but we re here as a service to United Methodists, and our goal is to be here in years to come, Foupht said.

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